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Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My…

Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart

by Joyce Carol Oates

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'No one is so close to me as you. No one is so close to us as we are to each other', 19 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: BECAUSE IT IS BITTER, AND BECAUSE IT IS MY HEART [Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart ] BY Oates, Joyce Carol(Author)Paperback 30-Mar-1991
The book opens with the brutal murder of a 'trailer trash' youth in 1950s upstate New York. Two people know something about it: teenagers Iris Courtney (white) and Jinx Fairchild (black). The author introduces us particularly to the former: her parents and uncle just come alive with Ms Oates' amazing writing. The racist feel of the era is also constantly with us, affecting every interchange between the two groups.
For me, it kind of fell apart in the final third. Iris embarks on a totally different and unrelated lifestyle. She undergoes a traumatic event which I couldn't see the relevance of.
But certainly brilliant and descriptive writing. ( )
  starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
I never felt connected to the characters and didn't get past 100 pages and it's not the kind of book I want to be reading now.
  raizel | Jun 23, 2015 |
The novel is set in the late 1950's and early 60's in Hammond and Seracuse, New York. Gracie Curtney is a white girl coming from a dysfunctional household with a gambler father and an alcoholic mother. She lands herself in a soup when she finds herself being chased by the local loony kid, Red Garlock. She seeks help and in turn is helped by the local basketball hero and a black boy, Jinx Fairchild. In the scuffle that ensues, Red is killed and Jinx disposes of the body. This incidence haunts both of them throughout their life. It pulls them together but also pushes them apart partly due to racial considerations and partly due to fear of detection. Both of them go their separate ways in a sort of incomplete, inattentive way.

The story is dull and the characters are not well developed. The author leaves a lot of thing to the reader to interpret as he desires. Some novels with ordinary characters and ordinary lives work like [The Chip chip Gatherers] by [[Shiva Naipaul]] which I had recently read but this does not. ( )
  mausergem | Feb 15, 2013 |
I almost gave this book 5 stars. After taking a while to warm up to the story and almost putting it aside a few times, I found that after about 150 pages, I couldn't put it down. During those first 150 pages, I couldn't relate to or find anything I cared about in the characters. I found them a little tiresome and confusing. I only kept reading because of Oates' prose style, which I find fluid and very appealing, and my experiences with Oates' work in the past, which have so far never disappointed (and also because I really dislike leaving books unfinished). Maybe I just had to get to know the characters, because I really connected with them by the end. The progession of the characters through their lives made sense to me, even as their lives took turns that weren't quite what I expected. But caring about and understanding the characters is part of why I ended up giving the book 4 stars.

Reading Oates' stories, I find myself really understanding the appeal of the unrealistic happy ending. Oates gives an accurate representation of the confusion and disappointment that comes when life doesn't live up to expectations. But sometimes when I willingly suspend my disbelief to delve into a novel, I want the story to not seem so true, and to be a little less ambiguous than life often is. Maybe it's not fair to give a 5-star quality book a 4 just because I'm in the mood for a rainbow in my rain storm, but that's what I've done. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
All of her books. Joyce Carol Oates. She is like an aerialist with words. Way up there in the big top, flying, pushing aside gracefully punctuation and sentence structure trapezes and ropes, with no safety net, and a perfect landing every time. Writes so much and with such insight and courage to do the impossible, i prefer to think she does it by alchemy than typing that first letter. its like her characters have a slightly different shade of sky than we are used to.
  eysman | Aug 30, 2010 |
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"Little Red" Garlock, sixteen years old, skull smashed soft as a rotted pumpkin and body dumped into the Cassadaga River near the foot of Pitt Street, must not have sunk as deep as he'd been intended to sink, or floated as far.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Jinx Fairchild fights and kills a boy who bothers Iris Courtney in a western New York racial incident during the 1950s.

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